I heard this at church yesterday morning, from Frederick Buechner’s The Magnificent Defeat. I’m working on a post about some of the things that I’m not doing this Christmas season, in an attempt to slow down the crazy. In the meantime, read this – because I think missing the miracle for the trees is certainly not a new problem.
"I speak to you as men of the world," said the Innkeeper. "Not as idealists but as realists. Do you know what it is like to run an inn-to run a business, a family, to run anything in this world for that matter, even your own life? It is being lost in a forest of a million trees," said the Innkeeper, and each tree is a thing to be done. Is there fresh linen on all the beds? Did the children put on their coats before they went out? Has the letter been written, the book read? Is there money enough left in the bank? Today we have food in our bellies and clothes on our backs, but what can we do to make sure that we will have them still tomorrow? A million trees. A million things.
"Until finally we have eyes for nothing else, and what-ever we see turns into a thing. The sparrow lying in the dust at your feet-just a thing to be kicked out of the way, not the mystery of death. The calling of children outside your window-just a distraction, an irrelevance, not life, not the wildest miracle of them all. That whispering in the air that comes sudden and soft from nowhere-only the wind, the wind…
"Later that night, when the baby came, I was not there," the Innkeeper said. "I was lost in the forest somewhere, the unenchanted forest of a million trees. Fifteen steps to the cellar, and watch out for your head going down. Firewood to the left. If the fire goes out, the heart freezes. Only the wind, the wind. I speak to you as men of the world. So when the baby came, I was not around, and I saw none of it. As for what I heard -- just at that moment itself of birth when nobody turns into somebody-I do not rightly know what I heard.
"But this I do know. My own true love. All your life long, you wait for your own true love to come-we all of us do-our destiny, our joy, our heart's desire. So how am I to say it, gentlemen? When he came, I missed him.